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My Subaru Outback theory of Gravel bIkes

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbround Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

My Subaru Outback theory of Gravel bIkes

Old 10-25-20, 12:11 PM
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chancelucky
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My Subaru Outback theory of Gravel bIkes

I've been admiring the Gravel Ride pIcs thread here for a while, but something did jump out at me. As fun as those roads look, you could ride 90% of them on any bike that didn't happen to have 23 mm or narrower tires and twitchy handling. For the last 20 years, my wifeand I have had a Subaru station wagon; it's got a great AWD system, but it's not set up for the roughest-toughest terrain out there, because the body's too nice, the clearance isn't really high enough, and the engine is a compromise between highway smoothness and the torque you might need for really rutted brushy roads. In that time, the Subaru, like the gravel bike, has become enormously popular. With both, I love the flexibility of driving/riding on unpaved roads. The Subaru Outback is especially good on regular roads in bad conditions like snow, rain, or lapsed maintenance. While I can do single track on a gravel bike, I do find that if it's super hilly terrain filled with boulders and roots, I'd rather be riding my hardtail mountain bike. That said, I find that for 90% of my rides, the ones in between trying to keep up with roadies on carbon fiber frames and the ones that call for full suspension mountain bikes, the bike I tend to like best is my gravel bike. Just like the Subaru, it's the one I prefer for long trips, chores, unpaved roads, or any mixture of surfaces. It's also the bike I'd rather be on if I'm caught in the rain or on a road with a bad shoulder or no shoulder. Bottom line, it's the best choice for unexpected conditions or choices.
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Old 10-25-20, 01:03 PM
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I drive my Outback the same way I ride my gravel bikes - I push them both past their "limits" on a regular basis!
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Old 10-25-20, 04:56 PM
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You can gravel on a road bike with 25-28mm tires. I've done it often. It's more enjoyable on a bike that can take a 37-40mm gravel tire. Disc brakes are a plus as well and you don't find that on a 20 year old road bike. And as well your road bike mat have gearing designed for less steep hills on a paved surface, the gravel will likely have lower gearing.

Likewise you can drive your OB on some knarly roads, it does have 8-1/2" of clearance, like a lot of trucks, but can't go places where you need less overhang and maybe low range.

In reality, the OB is a lot like a gravel bike, it'll get you most places a road bike isn't comfortable and a mt. bike with 3" tires and full suspension is overkill, kind of like city commuting in a Wrangler.
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Old 10-25-20, 06:23 PM
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My gravel bike and outback are both versatile, so sure- its an apt comparison.
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Old 10-26-20, 07:12 AM
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I fail to see any similarity. My Outback and Gravelbike are completely different colors.
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Old 10-26-20, 03:32 PM
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While I'm not into E-Bikes, if Subaru would make an electric or at least hybrid Outback, that would sell like hotcakes.
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Old 10-26-20, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by pbass View Post
While I'm not into E-Bikes, if Subaru would make an electric or at least hybrid Outback, that would sell like hotcakes.
That's still about 5 years out unfortunately.
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Old 10-26-20, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by 2cam16 View Post
That's still about 5 years out unfortunately.
Yeah, a Subaru mechanic explained to me once why they're not there yet--I guess it has something to do w the Subaru transmission, if I remember correctly.
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Old 10-26-20, 04:21 PM
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Funny. My Audi station wagon died this year and I would have bought an Outback if they still offered a manual. I got a Golf Alltrack instead.
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Old 10-26-20, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Funny. My Audi station wagon died this year and I would have bought an Outback if they still offered a manual. I got a Golf Alltrack instead.
Nothing like driving stick. My teenager wants a WRX for his first car - we'll be fighting over it!
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Old 10-26-20, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Funny. My Audi station wagon died this year and I would have bought an Outback if they still offered a manual. I got a Golf Alltrack instead.
Yea, I see that. I was super torn between the Outback and Forester, and would’ve gone the other way had they not discontinued the MT on the Forester in 2018. The Crosstrek is the last SUV they sell that even has it as an option, but the Crosstrek was a little small (and the MT was almost impossible to find in stock anywhere).

I understand there are some concerns with avg mpg incentivizing manufacturers to push CVTs, but I would love an MT Outback.
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Old 10-26-20, 08:08 PM
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Our first Subaru was a manual transmission Legacy Station Wagon. Somewhere in there, they went to a belt-based automatic transmission which actually gets better mileage than our Manual did even though the newer Outback is much heavier and higher. fwiw
I wish they'd stuck with the smaller form factor. I would think a belt-based transmission would work well with an electric motor, but there may be more subtle issues with it. I don't think fuel efficiency's ever been much of a Subaru selling point though.

The more I think about it, the Outback was to station wagons as the gravel bike is to road bikes. You're basically ruggedizing something formerly used only for on road transportation. I'm not sure why it's so appealing, but it is. I have a hard tail mountain bike with 700 C wheels, more or less just on the other side of the fence between the mountain bike-road bike divide. Usually, I take the gravel bike. Possibly it's because I live in the RTP Triangle in North Carolina, a rapidly developing area where unpaved roads are quickly disappearing or no longer linking up. I live near the ATT Trail which includes 7 miles of unpaved road, but it's probably the mildest unpaved road you could imagine. It's very hard packed and there a very few big rocks on it. A lot of people ride it regularly on racing bikes. More whimsically, I think there's a sour sweet thing going on: There's something about the tension between sleekness and ruggedness on a single bike.
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Old 10-26-20, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by chancelucky View Post
Our first Subaru was a manual transmission Legacy Station Wagon. Somewhere in there, they went to a belt-based automatic transmission which actually gets better mileage than our Manual did even though the newer Outback is much heavier and higher. fwiw
I wish they'd stuck with the smaller form factor. I would think a belt-based transmission would work well with an electric motor, but there may be more subtle issues with it. I don't think fuel efficiency's ever been much of a Subaru selling point though.

The more I think about it, the Outback was to station wagons as the gravel bike is to road bikes. You're basically ruggedizing something formerly used only for on road transportation. I'm not sure why it's so appealing, but it is. I have a hard tail mountain bike with 700 C wheels, more or less just on the other side of the fence between the mountain bike-road bike divide. Usually, I take the gravel bike. Possibly it's because I live in the RTP Triangle in North Carolina, a rapidly developing area where unpaved roads are quickly disappearing or no longer linking up. I live near the ATT Trail which includes 7 miles of unpaved road, but it's probably the mildest unpaved road you could imagine. It's very hard packed and there a very few big rocks on it. A lot of people ride it regularly on racing bikes. More whimsically, I think there's a sour sweet thing going on: There's something about the tension between sleekness and ruggedness on a single bike.
Hear, hear. And, for some, (like myself) there's the whole "underbiking" mindset, or I suppose, with our motor vehicles, "under...Outbacking?"...heh heh. That whole pushing your gear "past it's warranty" mindset. Usually, originally, born out of "well, we were broke and that's all we had!", but also, just plain curiosity and a desire to send it. Even if "sending it" for this middle aged dad means taking my Outback down brutal Jeep trails!
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Old 10-27-20, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by wheelsmcgee View Post
Yea, I see that. I was super torn between the Outback and Forester, and would’ve gone the other way had they not discontinued the MT on the Forester in 2018. The Crosstrek is the last SUV they sell that even has it as an option, but the Crosstrek was a little small (and the MT was almost impossible to find in stock anywhere).

I understand there are some concerns with avg mpg incentivizing manufacturers to push CVTs, but I would love an MT Outback.
My folks have a place in Tahoe City and they're on their 3rd or 4th Subaru now. They loved their old Forester but the new one was a little high for my mom to get into so they went with a Crosstrek and are very happy with it. I'd say that Subaru is by far the most popular make up there.
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Old 10-27-20, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
You can gravel on a road bike with 25-28mm tires. I've done it often. It's more enjoyable on a bike that can take a 37-40mm gravel tire. Disc brakes are a plus as well and you don't find that on a 20 year old road bike. And as well your road bike mat have gearing designed for less steep hills on a paved surface, the gravel will likely have lower gearing.

Likewise you can drive your OB on some knarly roads, it does have 8-1/2" of clearance, like a lot of trucks, but can't go places where you need less overhang and maybe low range.

In reality, the OB is a lot like a gravel bike, it'll get you most places a road bike isn't comfortable and a mt. bike with 3" tires and full suspension is overkill, kind of like city commuting in a Wrangler.
I commute on my fat bike ... oh, wait ....
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Old 10-27-20, 03:13 PM
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You guys have obviously never driven a Subaru in the outback. Those things have a transfer case for serious rock crawling. And, if you are nearer the coast, they might even have a snorkel for river crossings. I did make the mistake of driving through water deep enough it came in over my window sills, but at least it crawled back to dry land before then engine stalled out.
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Old 10-27-20, 08:00 PM
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The best description of my Outback (gen 5) I’ve read is “The lamest car you will ever love”

Big difference between my Gravel Bike and my Outback is that the rack on my Gravel bike does not suck.
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